Each year I buy several cookbooks off eBay for whatever year is currently exactly a hundred years ago. This year one of the 1922 books I bought was Mrs. De Graf’s Cook Book. One of the front pages has a photo of the author, Belle De Graf. The photo is glued into the book, and beneath it is the printed signature of the author. The opposite page contained information about her.
Intrigued, I googled Belle De Graf, and a bio of her popped up on a site called Lovely Antique Ladies. She lived in San Francisco, and married at 18. A few years later her husband went to prison at San Quentin for seven years for grand larceny. The 1900 census lists her as a widow – even though she had a husband in prison. It doesn’t sound like they ever really got back together, and by 1916 she was teaching cooking classes for the Sperry Flour Company. In the 1920 census she is listed as the Director of Domestic Science at Sperry Flour.
It’s fascinating how Belle De Graf was so resilient and somehow managed to navigate her way through a difficult situation to become a successful cookbook author and Director of Domestic Science.